Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima (home) 18/4/21 - J League match 10


Kawasaki Frontale 1 - 1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima

This was the last game before we have a little break and I think we need it. It was another flat performance but this time we didn’t get that little spark of inspiration or excitement that could help turn the game our way. We certainly weren’t helped by the opposition or the referee. But undoubtedly the main culprit was ourselves. We weren’t quite at the races on the pitch or in the dugout. Here we go with the usual bullet points, knocked out quickly in order to allow me to fully enjoy almost a week and a half with no blogging.

Them -

For this game it seems like we should probably start with the opposition. Sanfrecce are a notoriously boring and dull team (according to some 😉), so it came as no surprise to see them turn up with the noble intention of sucking all the life out of the game, the sport, the crowd and of life itself in pursuit of a glorious 0-0 draw. Before the game Jofuku said ‘We want to defend and attack Frontale in our way, but there will be times when we need to defend in every way.  But only by defending we won’t prevent their strong attack.’ Which is a pretty enigmatic way of saying, we’re going to defend and don’t care much about doing anything else. Even if the shape of the game wasn’t obvious enough from past experiences beforehand, this statement clarified their safety first (second, third, fourth...) approach. The first half saw them fail to have any kind of shot. I don’t think their full backs made it out of their own half till after the break. I don’t think I have ever seen a team timewaste as much as they did. On many occasions they were assisted in this by another useless referee. Whenever the ball left the pitch a Sanfrecce player would fall to the floor clutching some part of their anatomy with the sole intention of delaying the restart. They played the first 60 minutes of the match with a back 9 who, when they didn’t have the ball, all seemed intent on kicking lumps out of our players and when they did have the ball, did their best to lose it in order to justify a roll on the floor. I cannot believe they only got one yellow in the whole match. Junior Santos should definitely have been booked for a nasty revenge foul after he had the ball taken off him. But in the last 20 minutes of the game they could easily have won. Our solidity evaporated and they had chance after chance with Jesiel in particular having a torrid time. It seems weird to say this considering they only had three shots on target out of a total of six in the whole game, but we were really wobbling at the end and probably were relieved to come away with a draw in the end. Perhaps this sounds like me praising Sanfrecce but don’t worry, I’ll spin that around in the next section. They were horrible for the whole of the first half, presumably worked out in the half time team talk that they probably shouldn’t play to preserve a one goal deficit, came out slightly blazing, were spurred on by our disallowed second goal to score one, retreated back to 9 in defence but then worked out we were looking dodgy and almost stole it at the end. Glad I don’t have to watch a Jofuku team play every week. 

Us -

With an upcoming break Oniki chose to name what was probably his preferred eleven. Now this seems to include Tono in midfield and Joao Schmidt nowhere to be seen just as people were starting to praise him. Although there are some rumours that he might not be completely fit but might be back for the Nagoya games. As usual, there’s not much clarity when it comes to injuries. Sung-Ryong was back from injury so retook his place between the sticks. We started quite well and I thought that Ao was looking good in the first half. Sadly the problem was turning chances into goals. Admittedly it’s tough to score when you can’t get a shot on target and that was the real problem for us in the first half. With 60% possession and 14 shots in the first half you’d probably hope to be leading by more than a single goal and even that we might have got more than six of those shots on target. Much better than the second half though where we failed to hit the target at all. (The only good thing about this fact is that I now know that disallowed goals don’t count as a shot on target on Flashscore!). The two halves definitely felt very different, but the fact is in terms of effectiveness they were pretty similar. Our record in our first 12 league games is now WWWWWD and repeat. I’d be more than happy for us to continue in this vein for the rest of the year but it probably shows that from time to time we run out of puff and need a kick up the backside/rest to get us back on track. Hopefully this game will result in former as we now have the latter.
The other thing that has struck me is that quite often our use of subs has been a bit crappy this year. Oniki seemed to be on a hot streak with positive game changing subs last season. This year they change the game but usually for the worse. Certainly after the changes in this game our sharpness was dulled. And to be honest it wasn’t that sharp beforehand. I’m not blaming the players but we lost any kind of cohesiveness. Guess this could happen when you change 2/3 of the midfield at the same time and then 2/3 of the attack at the same time ten minutes later. Perhaps a bit more variety could work a bit better. I think if you look at a line up before a game this year it’s pretty easy to work out, barring injuries, who the unused sub will be and who will be replaced by who. I was very happy to see Kozuka and Tsukagawa get a chance in this game, but not sure why both came on at the same time. Likewise Chinen and Kobayashi coming on at the same time. It was a bit surprising to see that Kobayashi seems to now be nailed on for the right attacking position sub rather than getting a go in the middle. Not sure how long that will last but if Oniki had changed one midfielder and one striker at the same time instead he could have given Kobayashi a go in the middle and if that didn’t work move him to the right. We have a lot of talented and versatile players in our squad but it now seems that the front three positions will be a choice of one or another player in each position rather than any innovation. Tono moving back to midfield seems to have further solidified this. As usual, I probably haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, but it seems clear that our subs aren’t changing the game for the better, more that they are just to give some players a bit of a rest. If we’re winning when we make them, perhaps that makes sense, but if we’re not, it seems like we’re going to have a much harder time of getting a positive boost from them.

Ref and VAR -

Another goal chalked off for us in this game due to VAR. This was the first time we’ve had a ref run to the pitch-side monitor though (see terrible photo below). The weird thing is, the VAR refs seemed to be having a lot of trouble making a decision as this was another interminable delay. When Kasahara jogged to the monitor he seemed to have no doubt and no delay in reversing his own decision. Damiao was clearly offside (clearly in a VAR era way anyway) so the issue was more whether he was interfering with play. This seems a lot more subjective and I wonder if it might be a lot easier for everyone if this wasn’t an issue in offside decisions. I’ve heard that we might be going back to the old ‘fresh air’ gap between players for offside decisions. I wonder if this change will also be joined with the removal of ‘not interfering with play’ ruling. Would certainly make decisions more straightforward. And would also mean that we’d basically gone back to the old rules. Oh, how I wish we could go back to the old no VAR days. If we did I’m sure there would be no shortage of volunteers to smash up the VAR equipment with a baseball bat. They could even do it as a fund-raising competition. When we score now I am of a mind to just presume it will be canceled in order to avoid the poisonous disappointment of an overturned goal creep into my life. Perhaps we could just watch the game in silence and have the results of all the VAR decisions revealed at the end of the game. That way we can enjoy our celebrations or groans without having to worry about having the rug pulled out from under us. As I usually say, the decisions might be right this way, but it doesn’t make up for the experience being ruined. As I always say, I HATE VAR.
On to Kasahara, who now must be going down as one of the shittiest refs for us to have in a game. Perhaps stung by previous comments that he always sends off Taniguchi when he refs our games, Kasahara seemed determined to not bring out any cards at all in this game. Hiroshima got away with some very dodgy stuff in the first half and Kasahara wasn’t interested. There was one sole booking which made him ignoring some of the other fouls even more bizarre. My big beef with him though was the total ignoring of the Sanfrecce time wasting. Admittedly it’s a kind of difficult thing to deal with as once you book a keeper for interminably dithering with his towel, and then water bottle, and then changing the side, and then running up and aborting a goal kick it would take a brave ref to give a second yellow for time wasting. I would have thought old red card Kasahara would have been the man to do it though. (Actually, surely attention seeking Nishimura is the man to do it. If he worked out he could really become the focus by doing so he’d definitely be up for it). Its all very well adding 7 minutes at the end of the game, but when you consider 5 is pretty much a prerequisite these days and we had a goal, a long VAR decision and a water break to go with the Sanfrecce farting around and faking injury, seven minutes is a joke. Also, it’s equally about the breaking up of rhythm that if causes rather than the actual time wasted. The thing that pushed me over the edge in this game was Kasahara stopping the game for a Sanfrecce ‘injury’, doing a secret drop ball that apparently only three people in the stadium knew about (the ref, the keeper and me), and then letting all the other 21 players stand waiting for a phantom free kick whilst the keeper just stood over the ball running down the clock doing nothing. Clearly we should have been more aware of what was going on. I don’t know if the ref has a responsibility to communicate his decisions to the players but he definitely didn’t in this case. And I can quite understand that our players probably imagined that Kasahara probably had given Sanfrecce a free kick for something completely random. His decisions in the rest of the match would certainly have led the players to believe that anything, (apart from a reasonable decision), was possible. This game was a perfect storm of VAR irritation and complete frustration at another useless ref. At least that’s how I saw it!

So, horrible game, horrible opposition, horrible ref, horrible VAR. But I’m not blaming all of these things for the result. We messed this up ourselves. Now, a break which is well needed as let’s be honest, Yamane has been playing ninety minutes every few days for the last few months and it seems unlikely that he will ever be even substituted, let alone rested. Now, a week and half off before the ridiculously planned Nagoya double header. It didn’t seem like it was a great decision to play these games back to back and when you consider that government policy has now reduced the capacity of these games and prohibited away fans it’s going to be even more of a flat potentially season defining two games. It was very welcome to see Nagoya lose to Sagan Tosu, (cheers Edu!), messing up their unbeaten record and seeing their strong defence breached twice for the first time this year. Unfortunately it means that they too will be looking to bounce back. So it will be a battle of the bounce backs, with our misfiring attack coming up against their wobbling but bouncing back defence. Possibly a recipe for mediocrity and disappointment. But still, let’s not think about that till next week. Have a nice rest players and come back firing. Go Frontale!

GK 1. Sung-Ryong JUNG
DF 13. YAMANE Miki
MF 19. TONO Daiya
FW 41. IENAGA Akihiro
FW 18. MITOMA Kaoru

GK 27. TANNO Kenta
MF 3. TSUKAGAWA Koki (on for WAKIZAKA 71')
DF 7. KURUMAYA Shintaro
FW 11. KOBAYASHI Yu (on for IENAGA 79')
FW 16. HASEGAWA Tatsuya (on for MITOMA 85')
MF 17. KOZUKA Kazuki (on for TONO 71')
FW 20. CHINEN Kei (on for LEANDRO DAMIAO 79')

My Frontale Man Of The Match

I dunno, maybe...

IENAGA Akihiro - managed to hit the target!


IENAGA (Frontale) 38' 1-0
MORISHIMA (Hiroshima) 65' 1-1


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